Saturday, November 28, 2020

Response to After Thanks

(See: Just Above Sunset : After Thanks)

Okay, I’m no lawyer, and please don’t judge me, but after having now read the Supreme Court opinion, plus Roberts’ separate opinion, I find myself more or less (gasp!) siding with the Republican majority!

Except that I don’t think the dispute really has much of anything to do with religion at all — although if it’s not about religion, it shouldn’t be in the Supreme Court, right?

I suppose maybe the justices wanted to weigh in on this, but couldn’t do that without arguing that it involved the Constitution? I think they thought they couldn’t argue that these churches and synagogues can’t be treated worse than bars and restaurants without pointing out that those other places aren’t mentioned in the Constitution.

I don’t know. As I say, I’m not a lawyer. Whatever.

This case really seems to be just a question of whether churches and synagogues should be treated pretty much like everyone else, including “essential” and “non-essential” businesses alike — and from the looks of it, they’re not. In fact, some businesses seem to have no restrictions at all.

Also, I assume some huge church building that could normally accommodate thousands should be able to have more than ten (red zone) or twenty-five (orange zone) congregants in it at a time.

Plus, the dissenters’ argument — that the question is moot now because Cuomo has since relabeled the districts these institutions are in from orange down to yellow (no more than 50% capacity) — is silly, since that same color-coded system is still in effect, which means a district might still be flipped back in the other direction at a moment’s notice, and then we’re back to square one, but since this subject has now been breached, the justices might just as well deal with it now, when they have it, rather than later, after circumstances change back.

What I think should happen is Governor Cuomo should go back to the drawing board and see if he can find a way to design a more “equitable” system that loosens the restrictions, where all businesses (and please let’s not pretend religious institutions aren’t businesses!) are roughly on a level playing field, but without increasing the risk of even one more case of COVID than these institutions have already been racking up — which apparently is absolutely none (although that could be thanks to Cuomo’s help, for all we know.)

On the other hand, by the way, the reason I put “equitable” in quotes, above, brings up one more absurdity that gets hardly any mention in all this:

Pandemic restrictions shouldn’t be viewed as unfair treatment of some venue, they should be seen as necessary steps taken to keep human beings from getting sick and, in some cases, dying, not to forget passing the disease on, which would help create a gargantuan third wave of cases and deaths to levels to levels that tend to shock the rest of the world. 

In other words, it’s not about some state governor dissing Catholics or Orthodox Jews, it has more to do with Americans everywhere hiding in their homes and keeping their kids out of school, just to keep the family healthy and safe, and to keep this virus stuff from ruining our lives and economy for another two or three years or more.

The aim here should not be whether churches are being treated as fairly as hardware stores, the aim should be to make sure nobody, no matter if they’re singing praises to their god or purchasing a phillips screwdriver, catches a disease that not only could kill them but could endanger a member of their family or a friend or a stranger on the subway, who will then pass sickness and possible death on to others, ad infinitum.

But in fact, I see the court didn’t actually rule on whether the first amendment allows governments to tell religious institutions how to conduct themselves at all. In fact, if anything, it seemed to confirm that, yes, governments can do that, but that they just need to be sure they're “fair” about it when they do.

And while I did argue this decision isn’t about religion, the court itself might disagree with that, and I suppose may come back some day to revisit the question of whether or not we should be a theocracy after all, with governments being prohibited from even speaking to religious organizations at all, much less telling them they must obey our federal and local laws, just like everyone else.

At that point, I will rue the day that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, which was the day that conservative Republicans — who represent a minority of Americans, I must remind you! — finally took control over our nation's highest court, which is discussed in a recent issue of New York Times Magazine:

"Republican dominance over the court is itself counter-majoritarian. Including Amy Barrett, the party has picked six of the last 10 justices although it has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and during this period represented a majority of Americans in the Senate only between 1997 and 1998…”

If you’re interested in ideas of what we can do to fix the court, you should check out that article.

No, I’m not sure I'm in favor of “packing" the Supreme Court with my kind of judges — which could be undone in the time it would take the next president to snap his (or her) fingers — but I do think we are now at a point where we have to look into changing its structure and operation in a way that allows no one party to overwhelm the other, at the very least.

If we can't do something like that, along I suppose with a bunch of other things, this American ship might just find itself dead in the water.

But step one for Biden getting anything done next year might be for someone to pay Mitch McConnell a bucket of money to just go back home and leave America alone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Response to Too Crazy Even for This President

(see: Just Above Sunset : Too Crazy Even for This President)

Aha! So it turns out Trump was shocked by the election results!

And this indicates something we've known all along  that he isn't all that smart after all!

If he were smart, he would have seen it all coming and known what to do about it. And he would have seen it coming if he didn’t surround himself with yes-people. A smart person would known not to get rid of people who tell him the truth. He thinks he was being strong, but if he were, he would have had the guts to do smart things, instead of taking the easy way out.

We tend to forget that Trump is still a rookie in this country-running game, and has been making rookie mistakes, one after the other, but finally got stopped dead by a truth that he couldn't just imagine into non-existence. Dim as he is, I think he now realizes that his latest explosive lie comes with a lit fuse on it, and for once, he finds himself living in the real world, one that he didn’t manufacture inside his own brain, and he’s running out of time.

People who vote for him say they do it because he has business experience.

First of all, he doesn’t. Donald's dad gave him a bunch of money to do with what he wanted, which he then played with inside his own private sandbox, and despite his not being very good at what he was doing, he somehow never went broke. 

But because his company was pretty much just presented to him as a gift, he never gained the kind of invaluable knowledge one gets from working your way up from the bottom the way real successful business people dofalsely coming to believe he knew how to operate in the real world.

In fact, I’m pretty sure he never in his whole life even had to apply for a job. I'm guessing this White House gig was his first real job working for someone else, although I doubt that he sees it that way.

But second of all, by the way, from what I’ve seen of real business people, I don’t think we’d even really want one of those as president either.

To be a successful businessman, you often have to be pretty ruthless, maybe a bit of a scoundrel, and be ready to do whatever it takes to make a profit. After all, folks who make their living by selling don't work for you and me, nor for what's good for us; they work for the money they make.

Come to think of it, that is something Trump picked up throughout his years in ersatz business  an innate sense that money is somehow more important than human life, an assumption I’m pretty sure is not shared by the rest of us, and not something we would want to see in our chief executive.

I keep insisting Trump is ninety-eight percent ignoramus, despite his relative success as a conman and a grifter, but I keep getting pushback from people who assume that nobody that good at being that bad could be all that stupid. Still, I do think history may be finally catching up with him.

And I do believe that if we all work together in the lead-up to 2024, reminding the world of the lessons we've learned, we just might be able to prevent the next nasty autocratic Trump-like bonehead from taking America hostage again.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Response to Incompetent, Delusional and Retaliatory

(See: Just Above Sunset : Incompetent, Delusional and Retaliatory)

"Ah, but there was that rainy December day in Paris twenty years ago, when the world was a better place. That’s something to hold onto.”

No, it wasn’t really, and no, it’s not.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but your 1950s-esque film-noir memory  which I can’t help but picture in black-and-white, with some cheesy French accordion music wafting from some nearby smoke-filled cafe  was just a way-station on America's relentless slow-march to international oblivion.

Trump’s reality-bending superpowers seem to be deserting him, but if we thought that his Republican pals would be doing the same, we’d be wrong. Those poor lost souls seem to be still waking up in the recovery room, so we’ll have to wait to see how that sorts out.

They’re still in actual shock? They really did not see this coming? Go figure! All this time, I thought they were faking all that ignorance!

This could be the perfect illustration of the downside to being part of a cohort that refuses to pay attention to facts, especially of the "not-alternative" variety, which in this case means not checking 538 polls several times a day throughout this past year, like many of the rest of us did.

But yes, not doing that makes perfect sense to people who take way too seriously the ubiquitous "lesson" of 2016 — that political polls cannot be trusted and no attention whatsoever should be paid to them.

These people may agree with Trump when he claims “Science doesn’t know” this and that, but I’d put good money on my belief that science may seem sort of vague now and then, but it knows a lot more about just about anything worth knowing than these people's damn gut does!

I do like Jennifer Rubin’s “second option” as to when America's return to normalcy could possibly happen:

"Republicans’ bad behavior might bring on more losses in 2022 as voters decide divided government with a delusional, obstructionist party is worse than one-party government.”

I hope our government lives long enough to see that take place, although I do see it as probably happening after her "third option", which is this:

"Republicans will by and large insist Trump was robbed, use that to rationalize complete obstruction of the Biden administration, and limp along as they incite their base through one feigned outrage and fake scandal after another.”

But before we come to any of that, I strongly suspect that Trump, who prides himself on not being beholden to common decency and other societal norms of American life, is not quite finished leaving his mark on World history. He will, I’m sure, find some clever way to key our collective car on his final journey home.

And yes, I did mean collective. I realize it may only be liberals like me who actually take this phrase to heart, but I nevertheless mean this for all of us when I say that we truly are all in this together.